You had a great interview and made a positive impression. The employer thinks you are an ideal fit for the position and would like to hire you. However, before extending an offer, most employers will contact a potential employee's references. Follow these tips for choosing and providing your references.

Download this file (Sample References Page.pdf)Sample References Page

When should I contact people and ask them to be my references?

  • Contact people early in the job search process so they will be prepared when an employer contacts them
  • Give a reference ample time to consider what they will say about you, and they likely will be more eloquent and able to speak to your strengths

Whom should I ask to be a reference?

  • Generally people who know you well, who believe in you and support your goals, who can attest to your abilities and accomplishments, and who are articulate and communicate effectively
  • Professional references (supervisors, bosses, and colleagues) for a job in industry
  • Academic references (professors, teaching assistants, and advisors)
  • Typically employers will ask for three (3) references
  • If someone declines your request to serve as your reference, do not to take it personally, and proceed until you find willing and enthusiastic references

What should I ask a potential reference?

  • Are you willing to be one of my references?
  • Given your knowledge of me and my abilities, would you feel comfortable giving me a positive reference?
  • Based on my previous performance would you, as a supervisor, hire me again?
  • How would you describe my skills and characteristics?
  • Provide potential references with an updated copy of your resume
  • Tell them about the types of positions for which you are applying and include any specific job descriptions
  • Most employers will contact references by phone, some via e-mail; ask your reference for a preferred phone number and e-mail address
  • After asking your questions, if you have any concerns that the individual might give you a negative or mediocre reference, remove the contact from your list
  • As one recruiter said, "If you cannot find three people who will say you walk on water, I probably don't want to hire you"

When do I give an employer references?

  • A list of references should ready upon a prospective employer's request

Remember your business etiquette.

  • Update your references on your job search progress
  • Thank your references for their continued support and encouragement
  • Keep in touch with former and potential references once your job search is over


ECAC offers workshops covering a wide variety of job search subjects.

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